It’s that time of year again, and for all of you frazzled moms and dads out there scrambling to get everything your children need for school without having to take out a small loan, here are some great tips and tricks to get the most for your back-to-school buck:
- MARK YOUR CALENDARS SO YOU DON’T MISS THE TAX-FREE SHOPPING DAYS
Several states are participating in tax-free shopping days just in time for back-to-school. These tax-free “holidays”, as they are being called, include school supplies, clothing, shoes, even things like diapers and other necessities for the family. Be sure to check and see if your state will be participating in some of the tax-free shopping holidays, and check the lists to find out what all is included in the sales. If there’s nothing upcoming in your area, find out where the closest ones will be and get a few other parents together for a road trip!
- CHECK OUT ONLINE GIFT CARD SITES
Many people have gift cards lying around that they don’t use. There are now websites who purchase these gift cards at a fraction of their value and they pass that savings on to you, via websites like GiftCards.com. Take a look around these sites for any gift card deals for the places you will be doing your back-to-school shopping and, when compared with sale prices, you can end up saving a bundle.
- MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE CORRECT LIST FOR YOUR CHILD’S CLASSROOM NEEDS
Double-check that you are getting the correct items your child’s teacher has requested. This will prevent you from wasting money on supplies your child doesn’t even need. Also, another back-to-school consideration you child may be in need of that you won’t likely find on any supply list is a tutor. If your child struggles with a particular subject in school, and especially if he or she is going into a more difficult grade this year, consider checking into the services of a math tutor, reading tutor, or someone to help in whatever area your child may find difficult before the school year begins so that their tutoring schedules will not be full when you need them.
- SHOP AT STORES THAT DO PRICE MATCHING
Many stores will match competitors’ prices on back-to-school items as well as many other items, and some even refund to you the difference in price! This can save you time and money in that you don’t have to run form one store to the next to get separate deals.
- MAKE YOUR CHILD AWARE OF YOUR BUDGET
Kids are never too young to learn the value of a dollar, and especially of a dollar saved. Let them know what your school shopping budget is and then do not deviate from it. It will be good for you to stick to your budget, and it is imperative that your child see that there are limitations to everything.
- DON’T JUST STOCK UP ON DISCOUNT SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Back-to-school sales usually include many things that you use every day around the house: Kleenex, pens, tape, disinfectant wipes, you name it. So when your kids’ classroom list includes these items, pick up one or two extra for home. You know when you really need them they won’t be on sale anymore, so stock up now!
- REFURBISHED ELECTRONICS CAN SAVE YOU A BUNDLE
Refurbished simply means secondhand, and refurbished electronics have usually been inspected and had any issues repaired, so it really doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars on something that you can get, slightly used, from a thrift store or online site like ebay for a fraction of that amount.
CHECK OUT YOUR EXISTING SUPPLIES FIRST
Before you step foot into a store, do a thorough search at home to see what you may already have that you won’t have to buy. Chances are there are already useable things like calculators, scissors, rulers, etc, just lying around. Check in closets, under beds, inside of old book bags, etc.
- DON’T FORGET ABOUT COUPONS
Downloadable coupons that you just keep on your phone and the clerk scans at the store are fantastic. Check all the major stores for availability.
- CHECK OUT OFFICE SUPPLY STORES FOR GREAT DEALS
Some people think office supply stores are the more expensive place to buy school supplies, but do the math: even if you buy somethings in a larger size package, they will last longer and you won’t get stuck paying premium prices when you need to restock throughout the school year.
- DO THE SUPPLY SHOPPING BY YOURSELF
It’s perfectly fine to take the kids along to choose their own book bags, clothing, shoes, etc, but when it comes to basics like notebooks, folders, pens, etc, go it alone and save yourself some headaches AND a few dollars.
- DON’T FALL FOR THE SALES GIMMICKS
You may be tempted to buy the dry-erase markers and board that are on sale “just in case” your child needs it later in the year, and that’s exactly why it’s sitting there in your face along with all the other supplies. If it isn’t on your child’s supply list NOW, resist the temptation.
- SHOP FOR SUPPLIES WHILE GROCERY SHOPPING
Rather than doing it all at once, get into the habit of picking up a basic school supply or two at the grocery store each week. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up and you will have most, if not all, of what you need come back-to-school time.
- INVEST IN A “HOMEWORK BOX”
Purchase a small, clear tote that fits under your child’s bed. Stock it with items like crayons, colored pencils, extra ruled and plain paper, markers, glue, glitter, anything that your child may need for homework projects so that you aren’t stuck running out to grab up something you will likely end up paying full price for. It’s convenient and money-saving for you, and your kids won’t complain nearly as much about homework projects when they know they have everything they need to make it rock (*NOTE: Make sure your kids understand that the Homework Box items are to be used exclusively for homework).
- HOST A “SUPPLY-SWAP” LUNCH
Talk to the other parents in your neighborhood, soccer group, etc, and have everyone gather up all of the supplies they already have on hand prior to shopping. Arrange to have a small get-together at your home, order pizza, make lemonade, and everyone share the supplies they won’t be needing. Everyone is guaranteed to pick up at least a couple things they can use.